Chateau Le Thil Comte Clary in Martillac, Pessac Leognan, has been sold by Baron Gerard de Laitre to Daniel and Florence Cathiard of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte who have acquired the chateau, park and 11.6 hectares of the vineyard. Patrice Pichet, owner of Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion, has also obtained 5.6 hectares of the vineyard. (Pichet purchased Carmes Haut Brion early last year).
The de Laitre family are descendants of the Clary family who established the estate. The Clarys were related to the Bordeaux wine merchants, politicians and ship owners the Duffour-Dubergiers who owned Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in 1842 and the avenue of plane trees that connected the 2 chateaux still exists today.
Florence Cathiard was delighted with their acquisition: “With my husband Daniel, we have been trying for eight years to acquire this beautiful property.” The de Laitre family were forced into selling due to family disagreements. Chateau Le Thil Comte Clary lies between Chateaux Carbonnieux and Smith Haut Lafitte and Le Thil has plenty of potential – and a very interesting past. The chateau itself is indeed beautiful and its interior is a flagship of the style of the Second Empire.
Being members of the French aristocracy the Clary family renovated their chateau in the late 1800s to receive family members scattered throughout Europe.
The refurbishment of the interiors was led by the French painter Eugene Lami (1800-1890) and the surrounding park and gardens were designed by the renowned landscape gardener, Louis Fischer (1810-1873), born at Le Thil, who redesigned the City of Bordeaux’s Jardin Public in 1855.
(Strangely enough he also designed the gardens at Carmes Haut Brion as well!) The chateau has a lawn of nearly 1,000 square metres and the park has a lake, fountains, river and waterfalls, as well as collections of specimen trees.
The Kennels at Le Thil Comte Clary date back to the 18th century and were part of the 19 century renovations. The Comte Georges Duffour Raymond, together with Barn Joseph de Carayon Latour, owner of Chateau Virelade in Graves, bred the hunting hound Grand Gascon-Saintongeois (or Virelade), for hunting deer.
The new breed received the grand prize of honour at the Paris Dog Show in1863 in Paris and was bred by crossing the now extinct Saintongeois Hound and the Grand Bleu de Gascogne.
You may have heard of one of the more famous members of the Clary family: Désirée, the subject of a best selling book and film starring Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons. She was the one-time fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte, who became Queen of Sweden and Norway as the wife of King Charles John, a former French General elected to the Swedish throne as their royal family was dying out. Her descendants still sit on the thrones of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The chateau has 14 hectares of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a few hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the white wines. The vineyard soils have a special feature as they contain limestone and clay as well as the more typical Pessac Leognan gravels, which explain the choice of grapes grown – Merlot preferring clay.
The quality of the wines of Le Thil Comte Clary have improved over the last decade but with focused investment doubtless they will develop further – as will the price. Up until now they have been somewhat of a bargain and it will be interesting to see what Le Thil’s new owners have in store for this intriguing little chateau with a big history.